Does Developer Bleach Hair? The Truth Revealed!

When it comes to hair coloring, many people, especially those who do it at home, have questions about the different products and ingredients involved. One common question is whether or not developer (also known as oxidizing agent or activator) can actually bleach hair. In this article, we will explore this topic in detail to help you understand the truth behind developer and its impact on hair color.

What is Developer?

Developer is an essential component of hair color formulations that work with oxidative dyes to change the hair’s natural color. It is typically made of hydrogen peroxide, which activates the dye molecules and helps them penetrate the hair strands. Without developer, hair color wouldn’t be able to lighten or darken the hair effectively. The strength or volume of developer used in hair color formulations can vary based on the desired result and the natural hair color.

How Does Developer Work?

Developer works by gently opening the hair cuticle and breaking down the natural pigment in the hair. When hydrogen peroxide in the developer is mixed with the hair color, it releases oxygen that diffuses into the hair shaft to remove melanin, the natural pigment that gives hair its color. As the melanin is removed, the new hair color replaces it, resulting in a new shade.

Can Developer Bleach Hair?

Technically, developer cannot bleach hair on its own. Bleaching refers to the process of removing all or most of the natural pigment from the hair, resulting in a lighter or blonde shade. Developer alone does not have the power or ability to lift and remove all the natural pigment from the hair, which is necessary for bleaching. However, when mixed with a bleaching powder, developer can create a bleaching effect by releasing oxygen very rapidly and breaking down the natural pigment more effectively.

What Is Bleaching Powder?

Bleaching powder, also known as lightener powder, is a potent hair lightening product that is usually mixed with developer to create a bleach mixture. It contains ingredients such as ammonium persulfate, potassium persulfate, and sodium silicate, which work together to dissolve the melanin in the hair strands and create a lighter shade of hair.

What Strength of Developer Should You Use for Bleaching?

The strength of developer you use for bleaching depends on the starting color of your hair and the desired result. Typically, a 20 or 30 volume developer is used for lightening natural hair color by a few shades, while a 40 volume developer is used for more drastic bleaching or lightening. However, the use of high-volume developers can be damaging to the hair, so it is essential to use them cautiously and follow the instructions carefully.

Is Developer Safe to Use on Hair?

Developer is safe to use on hair when used correctly and in the recommended way. However, improper use or overuse can lead to hair damage, dryness, and breakage. It is crucial to follow the instructions on the hair color product and avoid mixing different brands or types of hair color or bleach. You should also do a strand test before applying color to your hair to check for any allergic reactions or adverse effects.

How Can You Minimize Hair Damage When Using Developer?

You can minimize hair damage when using developer by taking the following precautions:

  • Use the correct strength of developer for your hair type and color
  • Avoid overlapping color on previously colored or lightened hair
  • Use a conditioning treatment before and after coloring to restore moisture and prevent breakage
  • Wait at least 48 hours after coloring before using any heat styling tools or chemical treatments
  • Avoid coloring hair that is damaged, dry, or already over-processed

Can Developer Be Used for Highlighting?

Yes, developer can be used for highlighting hair, along with a highlighting powder or lightener. Highlighting is a process of lightening specific hair strands or sections to add dimension and depth to the hair color. The strength of developer used for highlighting also depends on the desired level of lift and the starting hair color.


While developer alone cannot bleach hair, it is an essential component of hair coloring and lightening formulations, working in tandem with other products such as bleach or highlighting powder. It is safe to use on hair, provided that you follow the instructions carefully and take steps to minimize hair damage.


  • Can developer lighten hair without bleach? Developer alone cannot lighten hair without bleach. It can only lighten hair color slightly by one or two shades.
  • Can you mix developer with toothpaste to bleach hair? Mixing developer with toothpaste is not a recommended or safe way to bleach hair.
  • What happens if you use too much developer in hair color? Using too much developer in hair color can make the hair color lighter than desired and cause it to fade quickly. It can also damage the hair and lead to breakage and dryness.
  • Can developer cause hair loss? Developer alone does not cause hair loss. However, improper use of hair color or bleach can damage the hair and lead to breakage and hair loss.
  • How long should you leave developer on hair? The amount of time you leave developer on hair depends on the hair color product and the desired result. Typically, it ranges from 20 to 45 minutes.


  1. Dunlop, R. A. (2007). Chemicals used in hair dyes. Retrieved from
  2. Johnson, E. (2017). Developer, Peroxide and Color. Retrieved from
  3. Schwartz, J. R. (2010). Hair Dye Composition. Retrieved from
  4. Unilever. (n.d.). Hair developer. Retrieved from

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